Entering Saturday, this just hadn't been Ian Stewart's year.
The Major League veteran had signed a $2 million deal with the Cubs last December but missed much of Spring Training with a quadriceps injury.
He batted .091 in a 13-game rehab assignment in the Pacific Coast League, then was optioned to Triple-A Iowa to find his swing. He was eventually removed from the 40-man roster and left in the PCL, where he posted a .146/.259/.250 slash line with one homer and 10 RBIs in 35 games.
Saturday, it turned out, was Stewart's day.
The 28-year-old corner infielder homered three times and drove in all eight runs to power the I-Cubs to an 8-5 victory over Round Rock in the first game of a day-night doubleheader at Principal Park.
"That's probably the best game I'll ever have in my career," Stewart told the Des Moines Register.
The home run and RBI totals both were career highs for Stewart, who's in his 11th year of professional baseball, including parts of six in the Majors. The eight RBIs tied the Iowa franchise record set by Larry Haney on Aug. 15, 1971 and matched by Tom Egan on July 13, 1973.
"When they say that guys have a video game-like day, that's kind of what it felt like," Stewart said.
Getting the start at first base and batting eighth, Stewart connected on a three-run blast off Express starter Jake Brigham in the second inning. He followed that with a two-run shot in the fourth that gave the I-Cubs a 5-1 lead.
After Iowa starter Nick Struck gave up three runs in the seventh and reliever Alex Burnett surrendered the tying run in the eighth, the Cubs again turned to their previously struggling slugger.
"I think he's just trying to get into a better position to load. And a lot of it is about his rhythm," Iowa hitting coach Brian Harper told the Register. "The last two BPs we've taken, he's been crushing the ball."
Stewart worked a 2-2 count against southpaw Joseph Ortiz before fouling off a pitch, taking a ball and sending another one foul with Steve Clevenger and Dave Sappelt both running. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, he went the opposite way for a three-run homer to left-center field.
With three swings, Stewart recorded his second multi-hit game of the season and improved that line to .170/.276/.360. He became the first I-Cub to go deep three times since Bryan LaHair on July 31, 2010 against Oklahoma City. It was Stewart's 12th career multi-homer game -- four of which came in the Majors with the Rockies -- and his first since a two-homer, six-RBI effort for Triple-A Colorado Springs on June 26, 2011.
"He was the team from an offensive standpoint," Iowa manager Marty Pevey told the newspaper.
Express leadoff hitter Engel Beltre went 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored in the losing effort. Former I-Cub Robinson Chirinos homered and drove in two runs.